NEW YORK (SEPTEMBER 27, 2022) – The Ford Foundation announced today it will provide $1.5 million in emergency funding to Puerto Rico to support recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. In partnership with local nonprofit and community organizations, the foundation is supporting philanthropic and advocacy efforts for those impacted by the storm. This contribution brings Ford’s total commitment to long-term recovery in Puerto Rico to over $22 million since 2017.
Hurricane Fiona’s catastrophic flooding left 75 percent of the island’s population without clean water and the entire island without power—and there is no clear timeline as to when utilities will be restored. The brunt of the storm’s impact hit areas in the southwest where 3,600 homes are still covered by blue tarps from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and where a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck in December 2019.
While the present crisis was created by Hurricane Fiona, the magnitude of the damage is directly linked to the slow and ineffective response to previous disasters.
“We have seen in previous natural disasters that underlying structural inequalities have a direct impact on relief and recovery efforts, and the stark inequities become even more exacerbated without intentional and meaningful intervention,” said José García, program director for Future of Work(ers) at the Ford Foundation. “For over three million inhabitants of Puerto Rico to not only survive from this disaster but recover with dignity, we need coordinated leadership and rapid investments across all sectors, and to listen to the needs of the most acutely impacted communities. There is no time to waste.”
“Since María, Ford has promoted bolder funding initiatives to support immediate response after disasters and long-term advocacy and transformation processes. After 5 years of continuous support, and now in the face of the systemic challenges Fiona highlights for Puerto Rico, we feel accompanied by this Foundation,” said Ariadna Michelle Godreau Aubert, Founder and Executive Director of Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico. “We encourage other foundations to look at this juncture as a chance to step up and reimagine how to support survivors. While basic needs are by definition crucial, we also need resources to think and implement a strategy that looks towards the future conditions and possibilities of communities eager to enjoy their right to stay and return to their homes and lands, while ensuring dignified living conditions.”
Relief efforts will focus on four areas of greatest need:
- POWER CRISIS: 90 percent of Puerto Rico’s population lacks electricity, and the private company that handles transmission says it will take days to return service to normal.
- WATER CRISIS: 62 percent of Puerto Ricans don’t have water service, meaning that nearly 800,000 people lack clean water. Filtration plants have been overloaded by massive river flooding, and communities lack electricity to operate pumps.
- CATASTROPHIC FLOODING: The Puerto Rico National Guard has rescued more than 1,000 people from flood waters, while 2,146 people and 254 pets are being housed in 113 shelters as of Monday. Government reports confirm the deaths of at least three people so far. Hurricane Fiona left rainfall up to 30 inches in some places along the southern and eastern coasts.
- MASSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE DAMAGE: Wind speeds in some parts of Puerto Rico peaked at nearly 100 miles per hour, and a bridge in Utuado was swept away by flood waters on Sunday afternoon. The bridge was a temporary replacement for another bridge that was swept away during Hurricane Maria in 2017. On Sunday evening, the runways at Aeropuerto Mercedita in Ponce were completely submerged in flood waters.
A strong civic infrastructure will be critical to both short- and long-term equitable recovery for all people living in Puerto Rico. During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Ford Foundation and other funders supported key philanthropic, legal, policy, and organizing initiatives that have since jumped into action to support recovery from Hurricane Fiona.
Long-term investments in advancing social justice in Puerto Rico will be essential to addressing the systemic disparities that threaten to undermine an equitable recovery for everyone on the island.
Through this emergency funding, the foundation aims to spur additional investment towards a long-term, equitable recovery in Puerto Rico.
“Without Ford’s support La Liga, and our initiatives, would not exist, and the initiatives bridging municipalities and communities, as well as with other sectors, would not be as advanced. The research, training or advocacy that those initiatives have seeded would not have been possible with this support,” said Cristina M. Miranda Palacios, Founding Executive Director of League of Puerto Rican Cities (La Liga). “Ford Foundation is a great example of how the philanthropic sector can support organizations focused on systemic change, in a direct and open way, recognizing the roles of each sector and helping us connect in a more transformative way. I urge other foundations and entities to look at Ford Foundation’s investment model, which is not only catalytic, but respectful of the realities, needs and wants of the communities impacted.”
“Once again, Hurricane Fiona has brought systemic challenges to light. This reaffirms Filantropía Puerto Rico’s purpose to coordinate, and strategically align the response within the sector, amplifying the voices of the people and communities most affected by the hurricane,” said Glenisse Pagán Ortiz, Executive Director, Filantropía Puerto Rico. “As the convener of the philanthropic ecosystem, Filantropía Puerto Rico will continue to mobilize, serve and lead the growth of the social sector throughout the archipelago. We encourage other funders to join committed funders in Puerto Rico to support the critical efforts being made to address inequities and the impact of the recovery during this time.”
The Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
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